For almost thirty years, Tom Clancy’s Ryanverse has been making appearances on the big screen. Four actors played his CIA analyst-turned-POTUS in films, and now it’s reached TV sets. On Amazon since last week, Jack Ryan on Prime stars John Krasinski as the iconic spy. But is it worth your binge-watching time?
Let’s get out thing out in the open, straight away: it’s too early for a Ryanverse reboot. The latest origin story, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, was released barely four years ago, starring Chris Pine. It wasn’t a huge success, receiving lukewarm reviews and an okay box office. The movie failed to entice younger moviegoers, and a third of its weekend opening audience was over 50. It was only interesting for those who already loved the Ryanverse.
Something similar happens with Jack Ryan on Prime. And yet, something is missing.
Jack Ryan on Prime: The Good, The Bad, the Blegh
Michael Bay is this show’s executive producer, and you can tell from the get-go. Of course, that can be a blessing as well as a curse. The fighting and action sequences are superbly executed, and the explosions are bountiful. But then, the dialogue can also drag. And that’s a big no-no in a Clancy adaptation.
Altogether, the story doesn’t feel new at all. I watched the season with a big Clancy fan, who told me there were bits and pieces taken from the books. The season arc comes from a mix of Clancy stories, but mostly new material. Still, it was a little predictable, despite the charm of its lead.
That’s one big plus for the show. Krasinski embodies the Ryan feel: the brainy guy whose combat skills are impossible to see coming. A boy scout who can swiftly go to killer machine. The combination of his affable demeanor and strong physicality certainly gets that across.
Wendell Pierce returns to his roots, playing a wiser and more serious version of Bunk from The Wire. Still, it’s the same tone: a hardass man with authority. It’s a good register, and one Pierce has under his thumb. Every scene he’s in, he chews up everyone around him, even Krasinski.
The rest of the cast is solid but less than stellar. Abbie Cornish is perfectly adequate as Ryan’s love interest. Same goes for Ali Suliman as the main antagonist. Perhaps the only other performer that stands out is Dina Shihabi as a terrified wife, but her character is cut short mid-season.
Are you big on spy thrillers? Already a fan of the Ryanverse? Go right ahead and watch Jack Ryan on Prime. But this isn’t going to be the piece that converts new fans. It’s a little tame, a little predictable, and a little too Michael Bay.
I have hopes for a more thrilling season 2, especially considering two vital cast additions. Original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Noomi Rapace and House of Cards alum Michael Kelly will join the cast. That’s two performers I for one can’t wait to see on a spy thriller!